From: Liz Lee (
Date: Mon Apr 28 1997 - 10:59:52 BST

I'm having difficulty in persuading myself that Pinker is correct (and
therefore Chomsky).

Why can't language be an evolutionary capacity (as Pinker and Bloom
argued) that is also shared with other primates? Why must there be this
innate "organ"- a LAD - which only we have? The evidence of apes'
ability to understand language from people like Sue Savage- Rumbaugh
seems overwhelming.

Pinker suggests that apes don't 'get' the point of language, whilst it
may be that they are unable to converse for its own sake, couldn't the
human ability to do so just be because we have a more evolved language
capacity, in the same way that some mammals have a more evolved
swimming ability than we do?

Premack showed that apes who had been taught to use a basic language
(plastic) were better able to complete tasks than apes with no such
training, so our use of language over the last (disputed) 30,000 years
or so has increased our cognitive abilities and (possibly) allowed us
to expand our vocabulary and use syntax. Surely there is no evidence
that the earliest language speakers used syntax?

We know, from studies of deaf children, that those not given access to
sign language do not just develop it by themselves, they need another
person as a facilitator, so the capacity to use language is not the
same as the instinct to walk after one has mastered crawling.

The more I read, the more I am less sure about this "unique" human

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